Before you get a German Shepherd Dog, you will want to educate yourself on what the breed is like. There are several ways to do this. Begin by reading some of the suggested material right here at GSRNE. Talk to people who own a GSD.
Just as importantly as educating yourself on the breed, you should evaluate the following truthfully:
What you want and expect from a dog as the responsible owner. This includes activity level of the dog. Don’t get a bouncy young dog when you really want a quieter dog that will be content to lie around the house all day with you.
We have noted some general characteristics of these beautiful and intelligent dogs below to help you decide if a GSD would be a good fit for your family and your lifestyle.
General Characteristics of a German Shepherd Dog
The German Shepherd Dog (GSD) is a large, active dog with a double coat. This double coat sheds and sheds and sheds and sheds, year round, and produces greater volumes of fur when the dogs “blow coat” in the spring and fall. Some shed more than others, but be sure that your vacuum will become your best friend. For some owners, this is not a trivial point. Being a large dog, expect muddy paw prints in the house every time it rains.
The breed was developed for service as a herding and general purpose working animal. Their desire to “work” or do something is genetic, and is stronger in some GSDs than others. Many GSDs end up in shelters precisely because they are working animals. Their first family really just wanted a couch-potato. Think about this carefully!
Most adult GSDs are handsome, giving, loyal, active, loving, protective and intelligent. Without proper guidance and training, GSDs can be rambunctious, destructive of property, obnoxious, and exhausting to live with. It is up to you to guide your dog to suit your lifestyle and that of your family.
Many GSDs can also become overly protective/territorial if they do not receive the level of leadership in the household that they respect and want to follow. Who is really running the show in your house? Evaluate this objectively. If it isn’t you or your dog doesn’t believe it’s you, then your German Shepherd Dog will assume that responsibility himself, and will run things as a dog will, not as a human being will. (After all, he’s just a dog!) In many instances, the dog way of running the world is NOT how humans would like, and we get calls from owners about overly protective and territorial behaviors showing up and getting out of control. It all has to do with YOU.
Most, if not all, GSDs need training and a structured lifestyle to thrive and become a canine good citizen. Training is not something you do once in an 8 week obedience class…training is teaching. You need to make sure the dog is following your rules for most of the dog’s life!
In addition, your leadership skills are something you will employ all of the time. Clarity, follow-through, fairness, and showing your dog that there are immediate consequences for all actions (good and not good) make all the difference! If you do this kind of thing naturally or work on doing it, owning a GSD can be the most amazing experience of your life. If you don’t want to commit to this level of mental and physical stimulation for your dog, and to this level of leadership bearing that you and your household need to employ as a lifestyle, please check out other more suitable breeds. You won’t be sorry then.
Different types of GSDs look and behave differently, and to some degree, have different needs. Learn about these differences and ascertain what it is you really want from the dog. There are American line dogs, German line dogs, other European line dogs, etc. Many people love the idea of a novelty like a Czech-line dog, but are you really ready to take on a dog like that? Most families are NOT. By researching different types and their general attributes you can make an educated choice about what type of GSD is right for you.
GSDs are known for being an “intelligent” breed. Remember that “intelligent” can be a nice thing in that your dog can learn quickly *if* you communicate with him well. However, “intelligent” can also mean that your dog has a need for physical and mental activity and stimulation, just like an intelligent child does. A bored GSD will often find his own excitement and stimulation, which might include digging, barking, herding small children around, “creating” toys out of household furniture or the children’s toys, etc. GSDs need exercise, socialization, and mental stimulation almost every day to be on their best behavior. Training never stops.